Photographer Nina Leen holding shutter release, standing beside her Rolleiflex, which is set up on tripod. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Photographer Nina Leen holding shutter release, standing beside her Rolleiflex, which is set up on tripod. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

As a European and an experienced photographer of animals, Nina Leen (c. 1914-1995) had a sensibility that prompted her to study Americans the way a biologist would an exotic species. “It was typical for Americans not to see what [the American look] was,” she said. “To them it was usual—Isn’t everybody like that? For me, America wasn’t usual.” Her many subjects ranged from the latest fashions to Ozark clans, even as she continued to study animals, including snakes and bats. “I wanted to show bats in pictures because words would just fly off into the air,” she said. “People wouldn’t believe it and could not imagine them.” After seeing pictures of an orphaned puppy on a road next to her slain mother, Leen adopted the spaniel-like mutt. She called her Lucky, and nurtured her to health and fame. An inspiration to stage-mother dog owners everywhere, Leen featured Lucky in LIFE, on TV, in a movie and in the book Lucky, the Famous Foundling.

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

5 models wearing fashionable dress suits at a race track betting window, at Roosevelt Raceway. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

5 models wearing fashionable dress suits at a race track betting window, at Roosevelt Raceway. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Portrait of a group of American abstract artists, collectively know as 'The Irascibles.' (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Portrait of a group of American abstract artists, collectively know as ‘The Irascibles.’ (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Little boys outside circus tent playing with a dog. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Little boys outside circus tent playing with a dog. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Models lying on beach to display bathing suits. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Models lying on beach to display bathing suits. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Boy Scouts racing down a dune at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo by Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Michael Rougier

Deer antlers hanging in domed ceiling of Gordon Castle. (Photo by William J. Sumits/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

William J. Sumits

A pilot looking out the window of a plane. (Photo by Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bill Ray

Students Steve Poster and Jessalyn Gray (fore C) talking at side of taxi while crowd of White Supremacists taunt them. (Photo by Joe Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Joe Scherschel

View of illuminated office windows in a section of the Lafayette Building (also known as Export-Import Bank Building), Washington DC, 1946. (Photo by Walter B. Lane/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Walter B. Lane

Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi reading next to a spinning wheel at home. (Photo by Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Margaret Bourke-White